Sep. 19—Absentee voting for an operating levy referendum for Alden-Conger Public School District opens Friday morning at the Freeborn County Courthouse.
Under the proposed levy, Alden-Conger Public School District is asking for an increase in the district's general education revenue by $1,194 per pupil, subject to an annual increase with the rate of inflation. The referendum revenue authorization would be levied in 2023 for 2024 payable taxes and be applicable for 10 years unless revoked or reduced by law.
"Basically to make up for expenses that have occurred over the last couple years," said Chad Schmidt, chair of the school board.
Enrollment, which had been lower for the last few years, is also back up roughly 30 students compared to last year. By Schmidt's estimate, there were 490 students currently enrolled.
Currently, the district's operating levy is at $206, according to the district. By comparison, Glenville-Emmons is at $2,063, United South Central's levy is $1,277 and Albert Lea's at $595. The average operating levy for a district in Minnesota is $985.
According to a FAQ sheet on the district's website, the levy would provide an additional $557,000 annually and would be used to provide student programming, maintain small class sizes and sustain a technology initiative, set up long-term financial stability, retain and attract quality staff and help the district keep pace with changing educational needs.
"The need is right now," he said, adding it wasn't as bad two years ago.
Schmidt said if the levy referendum were to pass, the additional funds would go to operating expenses, including electricity, gas and insurance, among others.
This will be the second year in a row the district is asking to increase the operating levy, after the vote failed by a slight margin last year.
"The single-ballot question we hope will clear up any confusion that the ... two-question ballot had last year," he said, adding he thought there was some confusion by having a second question on the other side of the ballot last year.
Should the proposal fail, budget cuts and programming reductions may need to be considered, and the district could ask for another proposed operating levy question in the future.
"The board will have to take a tough look at either ... if we can make a few more cuts with minimal impact," he said. "... This increase in enrollment, if we do keep those kids there, that'll help a lot as well."
The board would also look at more ways to save money, though they hadn't made concrete decisions on what would be cut in the event the referendum failed.
That said, from everything he'd heard, Schmidt said response was positive.
"Most community members I believe want to keep the school in the district going so hopefully we can get it passed," he said.
Any resident living within the district is eligible to vote.
Public meetings are scheduled for Wednesday at the Conger Community Center, Sept. 27 and Oct. 25 at the Alden-Conger Media Center and Nov. 1 at the Conger Community Center. All meetings start at 7 p.m.
Absentee voting hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, starting this Friday to Nov. 6, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 4 at the treasurer/auditor's office. The courthouse is at 411 S. Broadway in Albert Lea. Traditional voting is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 7 at 174 N. Broadway, Alden.
Schmidt urged residents to learn about the issue before voting.
"Be more than willing to talk to any of the board members," he said.
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